Roca Brothers, Chefs of Number One Restaurant in the World, Discuss Their Pop Up Dinner in Miami

by Olee Fowle for Miami Eater

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El Celler de Can Roca’s chefs share thoughts on top ranking, South Florida’s food scene and what’s next for them

The Roca Brothers, owners and chefs of the number one restaurant in the world El Celler de Can Roca, are currently in Miami to host two pop up dinners this week for some very lucky guests.

The brothers — Jordi the restaurant’s pastry chef, Joan the restaurant’s executive chef and Josep its sommelier — have owned and operated the world-renowned restaurant for close to 30 years in their home country of Spain. They have partnered up with Spanish bank BBVA for a second year in a row to do a five-week world tour bringing a “pop up” version of their restaurant to Buenos Aires, Miami, Houston, Birmingham and Istanbul.

Over the past 10 days a crew of 40 have been preparing a 14-course dinner in order to create the El Celler experience in Miami. We previewed the meal and also sat down with the chefs to chat more about the pop up, their thoughts on Miami and what’s next for the restaurant.

— All Photos Eric Saltzman/Chat Chow TV

Eater: Congratulations on the recent number one ranking of El Celler. The restaurant had the number one spot back in 2013, do you think you did anything different to regain the top spot?

Jordi Roca: We’ve been doing exactly the same thing for the past 29 years. Evolving of course, but we have been working with the same joy and same commitment and excitement.

Joan Roca: We have been working the same way. Lately with more resources at our disposal. Our team has grown and new facilities, so all that has improved because we have a new space in the restaurant. But we are always maintaining the same spirit. Never settling.

Since you’ve been in town, have you had chance to try any of Miami’s local cuisine? And what are your thoughts on it?

Jordi Roca: Our team came out earlier, but we just arrived on Monday. I got the opportunity to come here a couple of months ago to check out the different venues and taste and try the different cuisines. You can really see that Latin American fusion that’s so vibrant that takes place here in Miami.

What was the inspiration and idea behind going on this world tour of your restaurant?

Jordi Roca: If the Rolling Stones can continue to tour the world at 60 and 70 we can do the same. [Laughs] Even though my brothers are a bit older we aim to do the same.

How is this tour different than the one you did last year?

Joan Roca: This year is particularly important and significant to go on this tour. To go from the success of being awarded the number one restaurant in the world, it’s important to keep your feet on the ground. It’s very humbling and very necessary to go from that success, but at the same time bringing that innocence of going on tour and learning new things and meeting new people. It’s very healthy for us. That’s where the tour comes into play. We’re able to learn from people around the world, we are able to find inspirations in all the countries we have visited. Last year we visited countries that are renowned in Latin America for their cuisine like Mexico, Peru and Colombia, this year we’ve incorporated Argentina, Miami, which is considered the Latin American capital, and all the fusion that takes place and it has been absolutely fascinating and really inspiring.

The main difference is the first tour was a challenge because it was something new that no one had ever done before. Where as this year we see other people are other people are actually doing it, which is a sign we are doing the right thing.

How is cooking at these pop up locations similar and different than cooking at your restaurant?

Jordi Roca: The main similarity is that the same team is here as in the restaurant. And obviously the main difference is we aren’t at the restaurant meaning we have to adapt to differenent environments, different kitchens. Here in Miami we are doing all the prep work in Miami-Dade’s Culinary School, and its the first time we’re actually going to have dinner service on a boat, which is a dream of mine. I was a big fan of Love Boat [laughs], I was a fan of the servers and the staff and how glamorous they were. [Continues laughing]

You have cooked all over — where in the world do you think they are creating the most exciting cuisine?

Jordi Roca: Spain! Spain! [laughs]

Joan Roca: Spanish cuisine is tremendously interesting and committed to innovation. But I must say in Latin American now it’s a big focal point. It’s an emerging cuisine and very powerful. The chefs in Latin America combine their learning experiences in other countries, Spain as an example, with the unique diversity of the ingredients.

There have been plenty of rumors about a possible Celler expansion, even possibly in the U.S. So we have to ask, are there any truth to them?

Josep Roca: We will not be opening another El Celler de Can Roca anywhere else in the world, I can assure you that. There is a chance that our ice cream shop, Rocambolesc Gelateria, that we might be expanding it. It has been very successful in Spain in places like Barcelona and Madrid and there is a possibility that will expand.

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